I’m going to completely avoid pun-filled pull quotes like “Wrong Is So Right!” in this review, in part because it would be corny, but also because it would be a sad attempt at competing with the genuine humor found in Quentin Dupieux’s latest film.
The trailer for Wrong conveys all you need to know about the movie itself—man loses dog; man goes on bizarre quest to find dog—but it might help you appreciate it more when you know more about Quentin Dupieux. He’s also known as the weirdo musical entity Mr. Oizo, and if you enjoy his output under that moniker, you’ll definitely like the score for Wrong. Dupieux is also responsible for last year’s bizarre horror “spoof” Rubber, about a killer tire.
I mention this only because I don’t want anyone going into Wrong expecting a broad comedy with poop jokes. Although now that I think of it, there are poop jokes in Wrong. Granted, they are about dog poop and pretty high concept, but still . . . poop jokes.
As Dolph Springer, Jack Plotnick is fantastic, albeit completely hapless and occasionally annoying. In fact, part of what makes Wrong work so well is how there are no completely likeable characters, except perhaps Paul the dog. They might be ridiculous, but they are a whole lot more convincing as flawed human beings than the ones found in a lot of modern mainstream comedies. Dolph’s gardener Victor (Eric Judor) is harmlessly dumb, and fairly endearing because of/despite that. Emma (Alexis Dziena) seems okay until you realize she’s delusional. Master Chang (played by the awesome William Fichtner) has a mysterious accent that seems to come and go, perhaps because it’s meant to do so. Wrong doesn’t make fun of its flawed characters, however; they manage to expose their shortcomings rather quickly. It’s up to the audience to decide how to react.
Wrong, although still terribly funny on first viewing, also feels like the kind of movie that’s funnier when you think about it later, and especially when you watch it again. Some of the jokes will make you laugh out loud, while others will make your roll your eyes or shake your head in confusion. The mixture of immediate comedy gratification (such as the extended opening sequence or scenes involving Dolph’s workplace); jokes that go from funny to not funny to funny again (when Detective Ronnie visits Dolph’s house); and scenes which are just plain inexplicable (Victor’s dream sequence/fantasy with Emma at the beach), give it a unique texture. It’s not a movie that tries too hard to be funny although it is obviously crafted to be a comedy.
The score belies the overt humor by managing to be poignant and at times, almost creepy, even though the humor in Wrong (with one or two exceptions) isn’t creepy at all. It’s amazing how well this works. What also works are the various jokes that come from nowhere but which are in no way throwaway attempts to make the audience laugh. In this way, Wrong, although similar in spirit to a movie like Gentlemen Broncos, is far more subtle yet surreal than the almost grotesque, self-conscious humor found in that film.
Wrong is a lot smarter than it might seem at first, but don’t mistake it for an intellectual, highbrow farce (although the real joke might be that it is one). After all, it still has poop jokes. The “twist” (scare quotes used because it’s not actually a twist at all) is one that you might miss completely until a few hours later, but it sets Wrong up to be much greater than the sum of its (still considerably great) parts.